Rugby: Sussex help Bognor kick off 50-year celebrations

The Bognor team line up before facing the President's XV / Picture by Tommy McMillan
The Bognor team line up before facing the President's XV / Picture by Tommy McMillan
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Bognor began their 50th anniversary season with a superb festival of rugby and a game against the Sussex President’s XV which ended in a 15-12 defeat.

Hundreds of the club’s psast and present players, plus supporters and their families turned out to celebrate 50 years of rugby in the town.

For the first XV, the festival presented them with their first warm-up game against the Sussex President’s XV. Members of BRFC’s committee liased with Sussex RFU and a young squad of players from across the county turned up to engage in a competitive game of rugby.

Bognor started the better of the two sides with vice-captain Josh Burgess launching into his opposite number with a crunching tackle. The Bognor pack swarmed over the ensuing ruck to win an early penalty. Josh Riggall established good territory with his first kick out of hand.

Mark Ubsdell and Jack Tompkins rekindled their lineout love affair almost immediately and scrum-half Lee Shergold fed the backs some delicious quick ball. Burgess crashed into the midfield and Bognor looked dangerous only for skipper Tompkins to be penalized at the ruck.

Sussex then established field position in the Bognor half and began to show how they intended to play. Some neat offloads and a clever chip kick saw Sussex halted only by last-ditch tackling from Riggall and winger Chris Clare.

An entertaining final ten minutes followed but, despite the efforts of the returning Archer brothers, Sussex sealed off the game before Bognor could grab another score.

Bognor showed good defensive organisation, despite a focus on attack in their pre-season training, but the green wall was breached after Sussex broke through a missed tackle. The conversion was missed.

For once, Bognor benefitted from strength and depth in their squad. Young behemoth Tom James made way for the experienced Chris Barlow. Bognor welcomed back a prodigal son in Pat Gibbs after a stint with Worthing. Coaches Rob Outen and Martin Broome rewarded the hard work of the spritely Daniel Passingham and burly Christopher Webb with debut appearances.

Passingham and Gibbs showed fabulous footwork and pace all afternoon. In his first-ever game of rugby, young prop Webb took to the scrummage like a horse-sized duck to water while also making tremendous yardage in the loose.

Sussex grabbed another wide try in the second quarter after some miscommunication in the midfield. The conversion was missed. They also grabbed an early score in the third quarter.

Josh Riggall suffered a nasty injury that will delay his start to the season. Graham Broome and former first XV captain Lee Balchin rallied the troops with some big carries and, finally, Bognor established a foothold with an hour played.

Bulgarian Venci Angelov exerted huge pressure on the Sussex scrum forcing a hurried pass from their scrum half. Gibbs, now at scrum half for Bognor, tackled his opposite number forcing the ball loose. He hared onto the free ball and touched down to score.

Bognor then ran the ball from their own half. Some sharp hands put Chris Clare into space, his offload looked to be a scoring pass but the ball was accidentally knocked on by Sussex. The youthful Nigel Mitchell picked up from No8 and exploited a weak blindside defence. Connor Satturley scored his 29th try for the club but the conversion was missed.

An entertaining final ten minutes followed but, despite the efforts of the returning Archer brothers, Sussex sealed off the game before Bognor could grab another score.

A training weekend awaits Bognor this weekend before old adversaries Pulborough travel to Hampshire Avenue for a final pre-season friendly. All support is welcome in this annually entertaining fixture.

BOGNOR: Broome, Angelov, Webb, Ubsdell, Masters, C Barlow, James, N Mitchell, Balchin, Tompkins, Page, Shergold, Riggall, Burgess, N Archer, Clare, Passingham, Gibbs, B Archer, Satturley, Bidwell.

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